Imagine life in space has long been part of our collective fictions. Many of us grew up looking at some iteration of Star Trek with our parents or we have a strong opinion about the best Doctors like or we still Say it Firefly was robbed of its righteous hundreds of seasons. As a species, we are drawn to shows, books and films about discovery – people who run the limits of what we know and where we have been. It is in our nature to explore.
"For 95% of our existence, we have been nomadic," Stephen Petranek, author of the book How we live on Mars, says. "People are two million years old. Until just 20,000 years ago, we spent our time across the horizon to the next area where there were more games, more fruit and more things we could eat. Then we'd go beyond that."
It is sensible then, when we have now carefully explored the brains on our own planet, we would feel the desire to move again. To go beyond the horizon we can see. And Mars is the next big limit – wild and untamed.
Mars became Stephen Petranek's scientific obsession when he interviewed Elon Musk for a TED project. Talking to Tesla visionary and hearing his plans blew Petranek's mind. Through his conversations, the author realized that it was not only possible to come to Mars in the future, but the current technology makes it possible now. Larger still, he felt sure that a pilgrimage to the famous "red planet" could save our species from extinction.
No wonder, Petranek's book, How to Live on Mars, grabs people's imagination so strongly. This is not pure fiction but that makes inspire the imagination. Even so, it became inspiration for the NatGeo show, MARCH – a hybrid of real scientific interviews and script drama about the first guinea pig colony. Recently we talked with Stephen Petranek in advance for the second season of MARCH (on November 12th, 9/8c) and he encountered issues on earth that can still point us to another planet.
PART I: We need to find out who owns land on Mars.
The Space Treaty of 1967, modeled after what we did with Antarctica, states that no nation can build anything in circulation around the earth or in space that threatens any other nation. So, you can not militarize space – although it has to some extent been militarized. And no one can own anything outside the world of the earth.
This means that if you go to the moon you can not plant a flag on the moon and say that the US owns the moon. This contradicts how it was for many, many years (on earth). Throughout the history of the earth, explorers would advance to other continents and, although there were domestic civilizations, they would plant the flag and say "This belongs to Spain and belongs to France".
About a year before leaving his office, President Barack Obama made an announcement saying, "If you go to a place like Mars, and you decide, a colony or you decide to mine an area, it would not be against 1967 Space Treaty. "It is still unclear whether you should own it, but that means that if you get there you may be able to remove resources or at least live where you plant your flag. It is a pluggers right interpretation of the "67 Treaty.
I do not know if it would comply with international law or not. No one has power or jurisdiction, so it's all up in the air. I think it will probably work as it has throughout history – wherever you get there and you record your claim, you'll eventually be able to keep it.
PART II: We need to find out who decides the country's law.
The absolute truth is, we are not prepared for this. We have no laws on Mars. There is a whole new limit. There is no government. There are no security networks. But I think about things that laws and possess what will take a secondary place (to be alive) for quite some time – at least until there is a more sustainable population (as Elon Musk believes in being about one million people) .
Of course, people will abuse, no matter what the numbers are. It will need to be a kind of power structure. I suppose in the beginning – when you have 100 or fewer people – there will be a relatively militaristic hierarchy. But I suspect that people on Mars will be so focused on survival and make their lives better so that there will be significantly less misconceptions than we are used to.
There is a really good example of this, Antarctica. We spend approximately 10,000 people in Antarctica each year on different bases. And there's very little trouble that people are battling it because it's so hard. People are forced to tie to each other and trust each other for their own survival and well-being. We tend to live quite independent lives right now, and as long as you do not violate a team or create any problems, you're not likely to notice it. But in a society where you live alive, it's a matter of cooperation, everyone is looking at you. Aberrations from normal behaviors I think will notice very quickly.
PART III: You have to make the difficult choice to leave the earth forever.
Initially, you just want to send people to Mars who really want to stay and make a living there. Because you are trying to build a new civilization. If you are motivated enough to leave the earth forever, you are likely to become beautiful darn successful on Mars. And it's incredibly expensive to go to Mars – the best estimates from Musk put the cost of about $ 400,000 to get there. So, if a tour ticket is close to a million dollars, there are many people who could not afford it. But to maximize the efficiency of bringing people to Mars, you must reuse the rockets. So you need to bring the rockets. But if you have to fill them with water for the people on board, and more people, the cost escalates dramatically.
The idea is that you create a rocket that makes a nice and successful one-way trip. And then used mainly. You put some fuel on it and send it back. Eventually, it comes back to earth and is then rebuilt and continues again.
PART IV: We will be addicted to freeze-dried food from the earth and probably be vegetarians.
We must use Martian's resources in what we build, but the difficulty is that you can not keep people alive by building greenhouses on Mars, at least not initially. You really need to start terraforming the planet to create an independent food delivery. For many years, I suspect that most of the food on Mars, 80%, comes from the ground, freeze dried. The other 20% will be grown in greenhouses, and you will have salads and crunchy things to put in your mouth.
And you can not afford to feed animals instead of people on Mars. If you raise animals as a domestic crop, you usually have to put about seven calories in each animal for each calorie you get back from it. People on Mars will be a vegetarian for a long time. Because you really do not want to bring animals to Mars that consume resources that people need to live and survive.
PART V: People are coming forward quickly, which means that it will be a lot to be calculated right away.
Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, intends to begin building in or before 2030 these Big Falcon Rocket Mars Rockets, each of which will carry 80 people at least once at Mars at one time. You can start Mars every two years. And these will be reusable rockets. He plans to build thousands of these rockets in 2050. So in other words, in 2050, he imagines that 80,000 people arrive on Mars on a trip every other year.
If that's true, and he's among the most optimistic people on Earth, SpaceX would have a million people on Mars within 50 years.
PART VI: But it may not be as challenging as we think.
On earth, we seem to love growth. Our cities have grown exponentially over the past 50 years. Hundred years ago, in the United States, 80% of the population lived in farms in a rural setting. The numbers are now completely switched. Nearly 80% live in urban environments. We have shown that we can build very quickly from naturally available resources, and the same will be true on Mars.
And of course, people will not go there if there is no room for them to live. They can not live outdoors. They will die. There must be pre-availability. Therefore, for example, we will send a cargo mission to Mars in advance that will land with tons and lots of habitats and food and machines that make oxygen. It will not be like the moon where we will visit for a day or two. First of all, they must have what they need to keep them alive when they get there.
VII: This is human ultimate adventure adventure.
I would love to travel to Mars. I think it would be the biggest and most exciting, most visually stimulating journey in every way you can imagine. And the most extraordinary adventure a person could have at this particular point in their lives on earth. I may not want to be one of the first 10 people going to Mars – I think it will be difficult. But I would not mind being a number …. 1001. I'd like to go early before Mars gets too earthy. That way, I can be a hipster telling people "Mars used to be cool but all newcomers destroyed it."
The critically acclaimed show MARS, returns for Season 2, Monday, November 12 9 / 8c at National Geographic.